Maryland Accelerates Builds a Bridge to a New Career

Jul 1, 2021 12:20 PM

By Liz Douglas Medcalf M’17

Stephen Michael M’21 had reached a crossroads in his life. An employee of the U.S. Postal Service who was going through a divorce, Michael was spending his days off substitute teaching. FSU’s Maryland Accelerates Residency Program gave him the tools he needed to take his next turn.

“I felt drawn to teaching,” Michael said, “and this program allowed for me to not have to worry about working while completing my degree.”

Maryland Accelerates is a program that builds on FSU’s Master of Arts in Teaching – a path to a master’s degree and teacher certification offered for the elementary and secondary levels – with the added benefits of a $30,000 annual living stipend and a residency in a participating school in Frederick or Garrett county.

Michael was able to take advantage of the stipend while participating in FSU Master of Arts in Teaching classes and related field work at Broad Ford Elementary School in Garrett County. “That was pretty much the deciding factor for me with the program.”

Michael was one of seven students in the pilot phase of Maryland Accelerates. All seven teacher-residents have graduated and been hired in their respective school systems and are now awaiting their final placements within those systems, according to Dixie Heavener, senior research associate for Maryland Accelerates. These graduates will now begin a two-year Fellowship (Induction) program with support through professional development, mentoring/coaching and microcredentials for career advancement.

According to Dr. Jane Wildesen ’89/D’15, GCPS director of Human Resources and Employee Relations who serves as the district lead and liaison for Maryland Accelerates, the added level of support during the residency and into the fellowship is one element that stands out.

During the residency, students spend a full year, rather than a single semester, in one class with a mentor teacher, allowing them to become more immersed in a school’s culture and to build relationships with the students, their families and the community. They also earn microcredentials in computational thinking, cultural diversity and growth mindset and classroom management.

Then when they graduate and join the Fellowship, or Induction, period, they receive additional professional development, coaching and opportunities to earn more microcredentials for career advancement. This includes support from FSU faculty and the Maryland Accelerates Leadership Institute.

Maryland already requires every new teacher to have a mentor for three years, Wildesen said, and Maryland Accelerates takes that relationship to a higher level, so the enhanced collaboration on teaching practices and real-time critiques will be more meaningful.

Wildesen and Michael agree that the living stipend opens the doors, especially to those interested in this kind of career change, relieving students from the need to continue working while taking on a full-time graduate program.

“This program is great for someone like myself that is older and wants to switch careers,” Michael said. “My timing with this program was great. I was going through a divorce, and this program helped me divert from that and focus on reinventing myself. Essentially, this program gave me a fresh start in life.”

To learn about the Maryland Accelerates program and the FSU MAT, including admissions requirements, visit the website. The MAT Elementary application deadline is March 1, and the MAT Secondary application deadline is April 1.